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Posted October 1, 2010
Great songs from not as great singers
The standard division of labor in pop music was fashioned for a reason: many great singers are not great songwriters, and many of the best songwriters simply aren't star-quality singers. While there are plenty of exceptions (e.g., Dolly Parton and The Beatles, to name just two), George Strait and the talented writers who've contributed to his unparalleled chart success aren't generally among them. ¶ Strait has been one of country music's most consistently successful vocalists - a hugely talented singer with golden ears for great songs from others' pens, and the personality and connections to make his own music in an industry that's twisted and turned around him. In contrast, many of the songwriters who've provided Strait's material remain invisible to the record-buying public. A few of those featured here, like Gretchen Peters (who adds a delicate touch to her own "Chill of an Early Fall") and Byron Hill ("Hearted Memory"), got a shot or two at a recording career, but more often than not, their songs outperform their performances. It may not be fair, but if everyone were as good a performer as George Strait, George Strait wouldn't be the 1-in-a-million star that he is. ¶ What we get here is a collection of songwriters with good-but-not-great vocal ability singing songs that were indelibly stamped into the public consciousness by one of country music's greatest vocalists. Though these versions were nicely produced for this collection, they can't help but pale in comparison to the hits, and rarely rise above the quality of songwriter demos. Picks of the litter include Whitey Shafer's craggily rustic renditions of "Does Fort Worth Ever Cross Your Mind" and "All My Ex's Live in Texas," Dana Hunt Black's folky "Check Yes or No," and Jeff Stevens surprisingly compelling "Carrying Your Love With Me." The bulk of the album's performances simply don't match up to the quality of the songs, however. ¶ Fans wanting to gain an appreciation of how George Strait picks and shapes his songs will enjoy this look into the raw materials, but those just looking for great country music would be better off with one of Strait's own hit collections.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.